NC city mixes remote access with authentication control

Replacing multiple RADIUS solutions with a single 802.1x authentication platform lets Gastonia, N.C., provide remote access to employees in the field while maintaining control over its network resources.

The city of Gastonia, the seat of Gaston County in southern North Carolina, supports network connectivity for various emergency and administrative services throughout the county, and was using two different Remote Authentication Dial In User Service (RADIUS) products to manage network access.

There was a Cisco Wireless Access Control server for wireless connectivity and a Juniper Steel Belted Radius sever for virtual private networks.

When administrators for the two products left, “I inherited everything, and neither product did everything we wanted it to,” said Robert Loveland, the city’s network and security engineer.


Related coverage:

Keys to access control: Visibility, granularity, ‘set it and forget it’

The value of access control is easy to demonstrate


What was missing was an adequate level of granularity in setting policy for network access. This was critical, given the number and variety of departments being supported throughout Gaston County, which lies west of Charlotte along the border with South Carolina. In addition to the city administrative offices, the 911 call center, the ambulance service, city fire department, the city and county police departments, and the county sheriff’s department, the city provides remote connectivity for eight other police departments and 26 volunteer fire departments throughout the county.

There also were issues with compatibility in the access controllers. “Both products sat on a Windows platform,” Loveland said. “For some reason, neither one would talk to one of my three domains.”

He switched to a solution from a company called Identity Engine. “It worked great, but they went out of business,” he said.

The city now has settled on the eTIPS authentications server from Avenda Systems to provide authentication, authorization and accounting. “I had the initial setup doing both wireless and VPN connectivity up and running within a day,” and communication with the problem domain no longer was a problem, Loveland said. “Right out of the box it has been talking to everything.”

The eTips is an appliance running on a hardened Linux box. eTIPS works offline, handling only access requests, and not passing traffic, and the appliance’s scalability depends not only on the number of users on a network but the number accessing it remotely and what the patterns of access are. An environment in which users are frequently coming and going requires more capacity than one in which there were fewer requests.

The city uses two low-end boxes, for redundancy, to support about 1,500 users. Most of the county’s users are not accessing the network remotely, however. Most of the connections are coming from the 370 mobile laptops supplied to police cruisers, plus another 30 used by public works personnel in the field.

“The VPN is usually for workers when they are accessing from home,” Loveland said. “Most of it is wireless.”

Gastonia maintains 110 wireless access points within the city and also maintains wireless access from all police departments in the county, so police do not have to be inside the city to connect to the network.

eTIPS uses the 802.1x protocols for authentication. It checks identity through credentials, in this case a user ID and password that are validated against Active Directory. Authenticated users are granted access based on role-based policies established by the administrators using the eTIPS policy engine.

In addition to role-based access, eTIPS also enforces policy on device security status and configuration, scanning connecting devices before they are authorized. The proper device configuration is pushed to users with Active Directory. A temporary agent is downloaded to the client when requesting access to scan for compliance before the device is authorized.

Using a temporary agent reduces the amount of management required for the system because permanent agent software does not have to be installed on clients before accessing the network. But a permanent agent is available that gives a more detailed look at the client before it is authorized on the network. A permanent agent also can monitor compliance during the session, terminating a connection if policy is violated after authorization, something not possible with a temporary agent. Gastonia uses the temporary agent because of its simplicity.

“I want something as hands-free as possible,” Loveland said.

The city is planning further upgrades to its network and is testing a mobile VPN from NetMotion Wireless to provide VPN security for wireless connections. The Mobility XE product not only provides a secure connection but manages connections over a variety of protocols and systems, including cellular, Wi-Fi and WiMax, selecting the best path and maintaining a session while switching from one to another.


 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.